No Longer Keeping Up With the Joneses: Founders Feel the Pressure to be the Next Elon Musk

Generations past had to worry about keeping up with the Joneses — getting jobs that paid enough for the fancy imported car, the McMansion, and the 2.2 children to attend the best school possible. Creating the perfect image was stressful, but not impossible.

As the Good Men Project highlights, young men (and all founders) are no longer trying to keep up with the Joneses; they are trying to keep up with the Musks, the Thiels and the Ferriss’, an impossible task. No longer is making a six-figure salary at a major corporation worth bragging about; instead, the job worth bragging about is having your own startup or as a successful entrepreneur.

The implication today is if you’re not heading your own company, you have failed and there is a misconception that you didn’t work hard enough but could have. But, with the vast majority of startups failing in the first year, the amount of stress founders experience is resulting in some paying the ultimate price. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States–men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives.

Another problem is success porn — the magazine covers featuring the exceptionally lucky outlier who sold their startup or a famous billionaire offering business tips. There is little talk of the years of work that went into the creation and development of that billion-dollar company; instead, the fruits of their labor is praised and fawned over.

In offering up their own perspectives, some men feel that this harsh outlook is unjustified. “If everyone were to suddenly gain realistic expectations, they would stay at their jobs, quit their startup …,” and innovation would cease. There would be no Tesla, no Facebook.

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The pressure put on men to do something great is immense, but perhaps, as a society, we need to lower our expectations. Instead of having their “entire self-worth tied up in their identity as an ‘entrepreneur’ or ‘business owner,'” focusing on self-fulfillment outside of a paycheck or ownership success would result in professional success and personal satisfaction.

Blog post by: Harmony Tapper

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